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Ymani Hawkins: Embedding Belonging, Community, and Psychological Safety

Ymani Hawkins: Embedding Belonging, Community, and Psychological Safety

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Ymani Hawkins, the founder and CEO of DEEP-ish Consulting. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hey Ymani, welcome! Let’s dive in. What challenge are you addressing through your startup?

Ymani: Thanks for inviting me, Spiffy! Safety is a fundamental aspect of human existence. We need it to belong and to contribute meaningfully. But for some people—a lot of people—safety is not as accessible. In the workplace, it can be especially challenging for marginalized folks to show up authentically as a result of feeling unsafe. DEEP-ish gives organizations and individuals the language and skills needed to embed belonging, community, and psychological safety into their workplaces and spaces to foster healing and restoration.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Ymani: My identity as a Black woman inspires everything I do. Racial tensions, particularly those exacerbated in 2020, perpetuated a collective grief experienced not just by me, but my community. Conversations related to workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) negated the importance of psychological safety and Trauma-Informed Care. The thing is, we wear all aspects of our identity to work (whether visible or invisible)—and spend one-third of our lives there. I want to give people the language and compassion to exist authentically.

Spiffy: Can you elaborate on how you and DEEP-ish are working towards a more equitable world?

Ymani: The current definition of professionalism seldom makes room for folks to be exactly who they are (e.g., intersectional, neurodiverse, etc.). DEEP-ish dismantles structural and workplace norms to make room for conversations, policies, and practices that are more equitable for and representative of everyone. Utilizing emotional intelligence best practices and communal healing, DEEP-ish aims to redefine professionalism to embed cultural humility into the DNA of an organization.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community?

Ymani: Healing is the cornerstone of my work. A favorite recent milestone is having had the opportunity to host a “Day of Healing'' for a global tech client. It consisted of a series of healing sessions for the entire staff and its leadership. What I loved most was not my involvement per se, but my client’s value of the work itself. The client-dedicated space for the full staff to connect, de-stress, and emotionally heal, because they understood the power of safety, belonging, and community.

Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?

Ymani: Failure is an interesting concept. It engenders guilt and shame for not succeeding at something. But in actuality, success cannot be achieved without it. Failure has been my toughest teacher, one that has helped me realize the fullness of my potential. When I was rejected from places I desired to be in and excluded from speaking at times when I felt I had something important to say, I created my own space and elevated my own voice. I use both now to help and heal others who have experienced the same.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Ymani: James Baldwin once said, “The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it.” This is a quote that has inspired me on the gloomiest of days. Baldwin’s words challenged me to create my own sunshine when I couldn’t see it. Where there was no safety, I held spaces with and for my community to foster that safety. I want to empower people to use everything that they are, to be all that they can be, to make the change they wish to see.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ymani—it’s been an honor!

Ymani Hawkins (she/her) is a certified diversity and mental wellness coach. As founder of DEEP-ish, she addresses cultural humility, racial trauma, Trauma-Informed Care (TIC), and psychological safety via self-care awareness, emotional intelligence strategies, and mindfulness techniques. Ymani holds a Master of Social Work from New NYU, a Bachelor's degree in Interpersonal Communication and is a trained Executive Diversity Coach (ADC). (Nominated by Dan Egol at IDEAS Generation. First published on the Ladderworks website on February 6, 2023.)

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.